Thousands of supporters of the military coup in Niger gathered in a stadium in the city of Niamey on Sunday as the regional organization ECOWAS set a deadline for restoring the deposed President Mohamed Bazoum to office in Niger. Cheers and applause greeted the arrival of a delegation of members of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), which is currently in power. Supporters, many of whom carried Russian flags and photographs of CNSP leaders, were present at the stadium, which seats 30,000 people.
According to what journalists observed, the stadium, which is named after Seyni Kountche and was the site of Niger’s first coup d’etat in 1974, was almost completely full, and the mood was celebratory. One of the leaders of the CNSP, General Mohamed Toumba, delivered a speech in which he condemned those who were “skulking in the shadows” and “plotting subversion” against “the forward march of Niger.”
“We are aware of their Machiavellian plan,” he stated. “We are not surprised.” The protest is timed to coincide with the ultimatum that ECOWAS issued to the leaders of the coup on July 30, demanding that they reinstate Bazoum. However, as of yet, the generals who led the coup that took place in Niamey on July 26 have shown no indication that they are eager to cede power.
The ECOWAS military chiefs met on Friday and reached an agreement on a strategy for a possible military intervention to respond to the crisis. The armies of several countries, notably Senegal and Ivory Coast, have stated that they are ready to engage in the intervention. On Saturday, the Senate of Nigeria’s neighboring country, which is also a member of the regional organization known as ECOWAS, voiced opposition to the plan and urged the president of Nigeria, who is also the chair of the organization, to consider strategies that do not include the use of force.
The warning that was issued on the eve of the deadline on Sunday raised worries about the eventual outcome of the intervention, yet ECOWAS is still able to continue forward because member states reach final decisions by agreement. Niger’s military received help from their counterparts in Mali and Burkina Faso, both of which witnessed military coups take power within the preceding three years. Both African and Western governments have harshly criticized the coup.
As the deadline for the ECOWAS ultimatum approaches, the military junta in Niger shuts down the country’s airspace. The military junta in Niger announced on Sunday that it had decided to block the nation’s airspace after the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) set a deadline for the reinstatement of the country’s ousted President Mohamed Bazoum to power.
Niger’s airspace was closed because of “the threat of intervention from a neighboring country,” as stated by Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane, the spokesperson for the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), in a video message that was shown on state television. According to the CNSP statement, the West African regional bloc has finished preparing for an invasion of Niger, and at least two of its members have started deploying their armed forces towards the country’s border.
ECOWAS defense ministers have demanded that the military rulers of Niger hand over control, but they have been met with resistance so far. The defense ministers have set a deadline of this coming Sunday for the release of deposed President Mohamed Bazoum and his return to office. Bazoum was elected in February 2021.